Friday, June 08, 2012

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Belmont Stakes

The dynamic behind the 144th Belmont Stakes changed abruptly on Friday morning with the scratch of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, I'll Have Another, due to what is being called severe tendinitis. This has, of course, taken almost all the drama out of the race since the Triple Crown try we were all hoping for is now not a possibility. However, we must be thankful that any possible injury to the horse was detected in advance of the race and now we must get on with the task at hand, which is analyzing the eleven horses remaining in the race. Here is the analysis:

Closers don't usually fare well in the Belmont Stakes for some reason. Rational thought would suggest that the longer distances would tire out the front-runners, allowing the come-from-behind horses to be more of a factor. However, history shows that just is not the case. The pacesetters in this Belmont Stakes appear to be #2 Unstoppable U and #9 Paynter. Unstoppable U is a lightly-raced colt that has won both lifetime starts over the New York tracks. Paynter was a cruising winner of his last race, an allowance start at Pimlico on Preakness day. He also was part of the Santa Anita Derby field, running 4th after not getting a good start. The next flight ought to include #3 Union Rags, #6 Ravelo's Boy, #7 Five Sixteen, #8 Guyana Star Dweej, and #12 My Adonis. Of these, Union Rags and My Adonis appear to be the only real contenders. Union Rags had a horrible time of it in the Kentucky Derby and there has been a rider switch to John Velazquez in the interim. My Adonis ran second behind Hansen in the Grade 3 Gotham earlier this year. As far as those deep closers, you have #1 Street Life, #4 Atigun, #5 Dullahan, and #10 Optimizer. Dullahan was the hot horse during Derby week and ran third at Churchill Downs. closing stoutly to gain that position. Street Life is well-considered off his third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 12. Optimizer has been in the gate for both the Derby and the Preakness, running 11th and sixth respectively. Here are the selections:

MICHAEL'S TOP FOUR SELECTIONS: Paynter, Unstoppable U, Union Rags, Dullahan

They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again soon for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Preakness

The middle jewel of the Triple Crown takes place on Saturday at Pimlico in Baltimore and both of the main Derby combatants, I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, will be on hand to try their luck again. Bodemeister has been made the morning-line favorite over his conqueror from Louisville. They Are Off will be joined this time for the Preakness by Dr. Reid McLellan, my former fellow handicapper from Houston, offering his selections for the Preakness in addition to my own. Here is the analysis:

#7 Bodemeister appears for all the world to be lone speed in the Preakness. However, it must be asked how much did the grueling fractions that he set in the Derby take out of him? It must also be asked if he is capable of returning to the races just two weeks off such a test when he has always had his previous races spaced out by approximately a month. Can he win the Preakness? Of course, I am just not sold on whether or not he will. On to #9 I'll Have Another, who has run only one bad race in six lifetime appearances. That came over a sloppy track at Saratoga in the Hopeful last September. His Derby performance was quite nice and the ride he got from Mario Guiterrez was pretty much perfect. He's three for three in 2012, winning three graded stakes races. Will he make it four? I think that #8 Daddy Nose Best is capable of a bounce-back effort off a 10th place finish in the Derby. He was the "hot horse" in Louisville to many observers and didn't come through there. Isn't it possible that he might step forward on Saturday and inject a price into the proceedings. Take note that Julien Leparoux returns to the saddle to ride here after not riding this colt in the Derby. There is always a "new shooter" that gets into the mix in the Preakness. My choice for that title this year goes to #1 Tiger Walk. He is owned by the local legends of Sagamore Farm. It would be nice for Maryland if that owner could once again be prominent in the Preakness. He is adding blinkers for this try and worked a bullet half-mile over the Pimlico track on Sunday, covering the distance in 47 3/5 seconds. I think that #2 Teeth Of The Dog, who finished ahead of Tiger Walk in the Wood Memorial, and #5 Went The Day Well, who closed outstandingly in the Derby to be fourth, also merit consideration.

Michael's Top Four Selections: I'll Have Another, Daddy Nose Best, Bodemeister, Tiger Walk

This year's Preakness handicapping task is a simple, straight-forward, logical puzzle of interesting pieces. #7 Bodemeister is now the "darling" of the racehorse media world. His Derby performance is being tabbed as the "best ever" by a front-runner- oh, except he LOST the Derby!! I don't see a single horse in this field that is fast enough to run with him early, so it will be his to lose. #9 I'll Have Another won the Derby, so he will be well-supported and has looked good so far in training at Pimlico. Plus, I like that trainer Doug O'Neill took him over to "Old Hilltop" for his pre-Preakness training. My Derby selection was #6 Creative Cause, who went back to California then flew across the country this week. This grey colt was in perfect position to strike in the Derby and flattened out. He has yet to show me that he has the necessary grit for a winning stretch move. The horse I thought made the best run in the Derby was #5 Went The Day Well. With the smaller field in the Preakness, he will not have to weave in and out of as much traffic and I think I will like his odds at post time better than the other three. I don't see any reason in the past performances to like any of the "new shooters", though a post parade impression might move one of them onto the bottom of the trifecta and superfecta plays.

Reid's Top Four Selections: Went The Day Well, I'll Have Another, Bodemeister, Creative Cause

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again soon for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Grade 1 $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby

The 138th Run For The Roses will be held Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky with a field of twenty that I had been thinking was so wide open that you could start the race twenty different times and get twenty different results. I will say that my thinking has changed, as you will soon see. I am joined in analyzing the Kentucky Derby by They Are Off contributor Martha Claussen, whose paragraph on the race will follow immediately after my own. Here is the analysis:

It is evident to me that there will be quite a bit of speed in this Derby coming from the likes of #3 Take Charge Indy, #6 Bodemeister, #9 Trinniberg, #14 Hansen, and #19 I'll Have Another. Calvin Borel is always dangerous in the Derby and him drawing the #3 hole with Take Charge Indy certainly gives his backers reason to hope. The classiest horse of the speed is the Arkansas Derby winner, Bodemeister, but he is lightly raced and didn't race as a two-year-old, which is a Kentucky Derby taboo. As far as those horses in the next flight, you have #4 Union Rags, #8 Creative Cause, #10 Daddy Nose Best, #11 Alpha, #13 Went The Day Well, #15 Gemologist, and #16 El Padrino. It is this set of horses that I think is the strongest in this Derby. I honestly think that the winner will come from this list of seven contenders. As far as the deep closers, there are #1 Daddy Long Legs, #2 Optimizer, #5 Dullahan, #7 Rousing Sermon, #12 Prospective, #17 Done Talking, #18 Sabercat, and #20 Liaison. Dullahan has been a hot horse since his win in the Toyota Blue Grass over the Polytrack at Keeneland, but his Churchill Downs record does not inspire. Most of the rest of this group are justifiable large longshots.

I think that portions of the speed will hold on well, especially Bodemeister. Of the second group, Gemologist is undefeated and gets Javier Castellano aboard. I am more and more impressed by his Wood Memorial as the days pass (and for that matter, Alpha's performance in the same race). El Padrino is a likable longshot in here at 20-1, plus you have the Rafael's Revenge angle since Bejarano was Bodemeister's regular rider until the Arkansas Derby win with Mike Smith aboard. I just don't see any of the really deep closers getting too involved in here, except maybe to pick up a chunk of the underneath awards.

Michael's Top Four Selections: Gemologist, Alpha, Bodemeister, El Padrino

The Kentucky Derby has become more and more unpredictable each year and there is no reason to think that the 138th Run For The Roses will be any different. Gone are the days where the horse had to run as a two-year-old and make 4-5 starts in their three-year-old campaign. Turf pedigree and better synthetic form are not a problem and don't get me started on my most hated topic, Dosage! So, I will stick to one basic premise that I feel is as important as any and that is to find a "peaking horse" that appears to be improving in some way with each start.

Daddy Nose Best won just two of eight starts as a two-year-old, but is undefeated this year and his Beyers have escalated from 93 in the El Camino Real Derby to 100 in the Sunland Derby. Steve Asmussen ran second with my pick last year, Nehro, and maybe this is his year. I don't mind Julien Leparoux leaving and Garrett Gomez taking over. No Derby scores for either, but Gomez has ten Breeders' Cup wins and knows how to get a horse in position for a closing rally. I doubt he will go off at 15-1, but should be a good value, nonetheless. Bodemeister was perfection in the Arkansas Derby, but did he peak already or is he the real thing? Pedigree suggests he can get the distance. Love the connections of Graham Motion and Johnny V with Went The Day Well. Of course, who wants to look like an imbecile by ignoring Calvin "Bo-Rail" and Take Charge Indy.

Martha's Top Four Selections: Daddy Nose Best, Bodemeister, Went The Day Well, Take Charge Indy

Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers made using these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again in two weeks for a look at The 137th Preakness Stakes. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

What The Voices Think FORE!!!

This is the fourth consecutive year that I have polled some of my fellow racecallers to get their opinions on the Kentucky Derby. Last year, we had a first in that one of us (not me) selected the winner, Animal Kingdom. John Lies of Lone Star Park is back to defend his title and try to make it two straight winners of the Run For The Roses. Here are the opinions of some of the finest track announcers around today:

Pete "The Anchor" Aiello (River Downs)- Prospective
Tom Harris (Houston)- Bodemeister
John Lies (Lone Star Park)- Dullahan
Dan Loiselle (Woodbine)- Creative Cause
Frank Mirahmadi (Oaklawn)- Bodemeister
Don Stevens (Delta Downs)- Union Rags
Travis Stone (Louisiana Downs)- Gemologist

I will add more selections from the announcers as they come in to the home office. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Grade 2 $200,000 Lexington Stakes

It appears that Saturday brings those interested their last major chance to qualify for the 138th Kentucky Derby two weeks hence with graded stakes earnings from the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes. The Lexington will feature a field of eleven horses going a mile and a sixteenth. Here is the analysis:

I think the most interesting horse in the field is #3 Johannesbourbon. He has only started one time over the Polytrack at Turfway Park and won at 6 1/2 furlongs. His winning margin was almost ten lengths. The natural question that arises is can he carry that ability around two turns? The Bob Baffert horse, #7 Castaway, was a horse I was thinking a Derby possibility until he failed miserably in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. He had won one of the divisions of the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park. #10 News Pending ran well in the Grade 2 Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream and then regressed to seventh in the subsequent Florida Derby. #2 Summer Front has been away from the races since mid-December, although his recent worktab features back-to-back bullets in April. The two horses that possess the most upside as far as I am concerned are #1 Morgan's Guerrilla and #11 Gold Megillah. Morgan's Guerrilla is removing the blinkers after running second in the Grade 3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. Julien Leparoux rides and he has been winning wonderfully at Keeneland. Gold Megillah comes from the same connections as last year's Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. He ran third in his Polytrack debut in the ungraded Rushaway at Turfway on March 24. On the morning line, Morgan's Guerrilla is 6-1 and Gold Megillah is 10-1, so guess which way we are going.

THE PICK: #11 Gold Megillah

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

Hard as it may be to believe, but we are currently just eighteen days away from the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Is it just me or was it just yesterday that Animal Kingdom was wearing roses? Anyway, the 138th Derby might just be one of the more wide-open editions of the Run For The Roses. I am literally thinking that you could load the twenty horses in the gate, spring the latch and you could get twenty different winners. Here are this week's Super Six Derby Pix:

#1 Gemologist- It was just two years ago that WinStar Farm and Todd Pletcher teamed up for a Derby win with Super Saver. This Tiznow offspring is now 5 for 5 in his career and his last win was a fighting effort in the Wood Memorial with Alpha, who I have been high on all spring. Jockey Javier Castellano might just be the best rider in the business right now, which makes this team tough to beat.

#2 Union Rags- It seems to me that the horse that most people were targeting as the favorite is suddenly forgotten after his loss in the Florida Derby and the wins last weekend from Dullahan and Bodemeister. Granted, his loss in the Florida Derby wasn't great, but I thought it was more of a product of a poor ride from Julien Leparoux. It might be one of the few times I can say "poor ride" and "Leparoux" in the same sentence, but it shouldn't cause anyone to discount the chances of this horse.

#3 I'll Have Another- So far, so good in 2012 for this colt. He won the Robert Lewis at long odds and then followed it up with a win in the Santa Anita Derby in a tough stretch duel that also involved Creative Cause. It is worth noting that the only time this horse left the West Coast, he ran sixth in the Hopeful at Saratoga. Last time I checked, Kentucky was not on the West Coast. The other question with this horse is the jockey Mario Guiterrez. He has done well in the west, but how will do on the REALLY big stage?

#4 Hansen- Can everyone please get off the dye job story involving this horse and his tail? Even the connections are sick of it. What cannot be overlooked is that he was run down by Dullahan this last weekend in the Blue Grass over the polytrack at Keeneland. I think, however, that Ramon Dominguez wasn't really asking for everything he could in the stretch of that race. Remember, Hansen has his spot already secured in Louisville, so while it would have been nice to win that race, it wasn't totally necessary.

#5 Bodemeister- Empire Maker didn't win the Kentucky Derby (much to my chagrin), but this son of his certainly could. His performance at the Arkansas Derby this past weekend certainly was dazzling. However, when it comes to this horse, you must remember that the old statistic of no horse has won the Derby without running as a two-year-old since ye olden days comes into play here. Bodemeister didn't debut until January 16 of this year. Never mind Secret Circle though, I think this might be Bob Baffert's best Derby chance this season.

#6 Creative Cause- He will have eight career starts when he goes postward at Churchill Downs, which is a lot these days. He has never missed the money in any of those performances. I think he is certainly going to be a win candidate in the Derby, but am concerned that he allowed I'll Have Another to go by and win the Santa Anita Derby. In the stretch of that race, I thought this grey was the winner, only to be rebuffed at the very end. He will have to negotiate another furlong on May 5.

Tune in again this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Grade 1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby

The Kentucky Derby is now just three short weeks away. In recent weeks, several horses have established their credentials to go forward to Louisville, while still others remain on the outside looking in. There are now precious few opportunities to get into the gate for the Derby. One of those is at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, the Grade 1 $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby, the culmination of the Racing Festival Of The South. Here is the analysis:

Of the horses in this field, likely only #5 Secret Circle is a lock to make the Derby field, should his connections elect to go that far. Speaking of going that far, that has always been the concern with this horse. How far can he go? The fact remains that if he keeps winning as these races get longer, then he certainly can go this far. Secret Circle will likely be forwardly placed in the Arkansas Derby, as will #11 Bodemeister. One of these horses will likely be the favorite on Saturday. However, since they have similar running styles, the possibility is there that these horses could burn each other out with some serious speed. So, if that happens and the two favorites fade away, who picks up the slack? I think that #6 Isn't He Clever certainly can be a winner here. His workouts are stellar with two recent bullet workouts. Blinkers are coming off this gelding for this try. #7 Optimizer made an impressive run to get second money in the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 17. However, he also didn't run a step in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds the time before. Which horse will show up? #8 Sabercat did earn enough money in the Delta Jackpot to ensure a Derby place, but he has only run once since that win and his eighth in the Rebel really doesn't inspire confidence for his chances, especially when it comes to the Derby in three weeks. I had been high on #3 Najjaar in the Rebel, but he never really got going until it was way too late and ended up a closing sixth. Maybe Calvin Borel won't wait until it's hopelessly late to get him rolling.

THE PICK: #6 Isn't He Clever (6-1)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Grade 2 $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby

New Orleans will be hopping this weekend (as opposed to any other usual weekend in The Big Easy) with the Final Four on Saturday and the NCAA Title Game on Monday. Of course, the intervening Sunday will feature the 99th running of the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. Here is the analysis:

The early speed might very well be put forth by #6 Cigar Street, #9 Comisky's Humor and #12 Hero Of Order. I also happen to think that part of the favored entry, #1a Mark Valeski, will be quite close to whatever pace happens to develop. #3 Windsurfer, #8 Arm Force, and #10 Z Dager will also be in what I think will be the second flight of runners. #7 Shared Property is adding blinkers tonight. #13 Afford will need to overcome the #14 post position to be a factor here, but his running style is such that the post position might not affect him to much. The deep closers in the field appear to be #4 Finnegans Wake, #5 Flashy Sunrise, and #11 Rousing Sermon.

Cigar Street was awesome in his maiden-breaking win at Fair Grounds on March 10, when he posted a field-best Beyer figure of 99. He went to the front, sent relaxed fractions, and widened out to a convincing win by over 13 lengths. I just don't think this race will set up the same way, since there appears to be a good amount of pace. The question becomes who will be the ones to pounce on the pacesetters late and what will the end result become? I think that Cigar Street's inexperience might play a factor against him here and while Mark Valeski is the logical choice after him, the price just won't be there for the entry, so I will be going with another horse that should be in a similar spot with a better price.

THE PICK: #13 Afford (15-1)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

There are two major Kentucky Derby prep race this coming weekend, the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Sunday. That means this weekend will go a long way to crystallizing the picture for the Kentucky Derby just five weeks out. Here are this week's Super Six Derby Pix:

#1 Union Rags- He will be part of the field in that Florida Derby on Saturday and will likely be the favorite. If he is the winner, then he will likely be the big favorite come Derby Day. His only misstep came in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. If he comes through on Saturday, the hype will kick in almost immediately for the big showdown with him and the horse that vanquished him in the Juvenile, Hansen.

#2 Hansen- First, it appeared that he would be going the Florida route, but he lost to the now-departed Algorithms in the Holy Bull. He then went north and rocked the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Therefore, it was assumed he would stick in the Big Apple and run in the Wood Memorial. Not so fast, as he is now scheduled to run in the Blue Grass Stakes over the polytrack at Keeneland. This movement has affected the plans of other runners, but since Hansen is one of the big dogs, his connections can do what they want to.

#3 El Padrino- The first Todd Pletcher trainee on the list has been a vagabond of sorts as well. He flashed on the scene this year after a flashy Allowance win at Gulfstream Park on January 29. From there, he went to Louisiana and eked out a victory in the Risen Star, just withstanding the challenge of Mark Valeski, who will be one of the favorites in the Louisiana Derby this weekend. Meanwhile, El Padrino has gone back to Florida and will be part of the field in the Florida Derby.

#4 Creative Cause- He has been the top dog on the West Coast this season. Yes, he ran third in the San Vicente, but he followed that up with a strong score in the San Felipe on March 10. He will likely be the big favorite in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7, which will likely be his last start before heading to Kentucky. Remember, he was not that far behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, so the deficit to make up really isn't that much.

#5 Alpha- This is the horse that trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been waiting to see where everyone else was going to go before he decided what to do with him. He might be the best chance Godolphin has had for that elusive Derby win that they want so badly. After all the thrusting and parrying with the schedule, he will go postward in the Wood Memorial on April 7. Granted his Breeders' Cup Juvenile was disappointing, but he has been solid as a rock in two wins over the inner track at the Big A. It will be interesting to see how he does over the main dirt surface there.

#6 Prospective- He was the best of the bunch at Tampa Bay Downs this winter season. He overcame a horrible post draw to run second in the Sam Davis and then withstood a stern challenge from longshot Golden Ticket to win the Tampa Bay Derby itself after drawing the rail. He might be facing off with Alpha in the Wood Memorial on April 7 in New York. However, if you are going to denigrate Alpha for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then Prospective deserves demerits for the race also since he finished 13th.

Tune in again later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Grade 2 $500,000 Rebel Stakes

The lone major Kentucky Derby prep on St. Patrick's Day takes place in Hot Springs, Arkansas at Oaklawn Park. The Grade 2 Rebel Stakes is final tune-up for a field of thirteen hopefuls who wish to progress to the Arkansas Derby and then on to the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert brings Secret Circle back to test the distance waters again at 1 1/16 miles following an impressive win in the 1 mile Southwest Stakes. Here is the analysis:

Clearly, #8 Secret Circle will be the main speed threat in this race. Granted he sat slightly off the pace of #3 Scatman in the Southwest on February 20, then rallied to get a win by a half-length. Both horses eclipsed Beyer numbers of 100 in that division of the Southwest. It could very well develop into a speed battle between these two again in the Rebel. Of course, what will be the key factor is what happens behind them. Who might come and get them if they tire late? Delta Jackpot winner, #7 Sabercat, ought to be rolling late, along with the Charles Cella-owned #4 Cyber Secret. I think there is a myriad of possibilities as far as deep closers in here, especially with the extra distance. #5 Optimizer has plenty of experience with racing in tall cotton, having finished 3rd and 8th in two previous Grade 1 tries. Steve Asmussen sends out the lightly raced #1 Unbridled's Note and #11 Najjaar is a come-from-behind horse that has won two straight at Oaklawn and gets Calvin Borel up. Isn't Calvin kind of overdue to get a big win again?

THE PICK: #11 Najjaar (6-1)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

The Kentucky Derby picture continues to sharpen its focus as we draw nearer and nearer to the First Saturday In May, when the issue will finally be decided underneath the Twin Spires. The big prep race on St. Patrick's Day will be the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Trainer Bob Baffert swept both divisions of the Southwest Stakes earlier this meet at Oaklawn with Castaway and Secret Circle. Here are the Pix for this week:

#1 Union Rags- He cemented his status as the early favorite after his convincing win in the Fountain Of Youth. The only question that remains after that effort is; "what did he beat?". Algorithms scratched and is now out of action, so while Union Rags remains at the top of the pops, I think he must put together another sterling effort in the Florida Derby to remain as number one.

#2 El Padrino- Trainer Todd Pletcher took this top candidate away from Florida for his last try in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds. What he got was all he could handle. El Padrino won the Risen Star, but only after being extended to the limit by Mark Valeski in New Orleans. Now, Pletcher has elected to go back to Florida and Gulfstream Park for the Florida Derby on March 31. It could turn the Florida Derby into the biggest and best prep race of the season.

#3 Hansen- The Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner stole the title of New York's leading Derby candidate away from Alpha with his win in the Gotham Stakes on March 3. His race was maybe one of his best overall efforts, considering he had to overcome his outside post position, which essentially compromised his preferred running style of being in front all the way. Hansen ended up sitting just off the early leaders and stormed into the lead at the stretch call and went on to win by three lengths.

#4 Creative Cause- There was a time earlier this year when I thought the Derby winner would be a product of Southern California. Maybe I was right, but I wasn't necessarily thinking about this grey colt. Yes, he ran third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he also ran third in the San Vicente at Santa Anita on February 19. He followed that one up with a nifty score over the relatively inexperienced Bodemeister in the San Felipe. The next stop if the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

#5 Alpha- Admittedly, I have been high on this Godolphin colt for a while now. He really has never made a mistake throughout his early year campaign in New York. His lone poor effort, unfortunately, came on the biggest stage he has faced thus far, an 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November. Now, there is uncertainty as to where he will race next, with the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, and Wood Memorial still under consideration by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

#6 Prospective- I thought quite a bit of his second place finish in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay, considering he drew the outside post in the field of eleven. Conversely, he drew the rail post position in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 10. Needless to say, I also thought quite a bit of this effort, given that no one gave him his victory. He was given a taut battle by longshot Golden Ticket in the Tampa Bay Derby and managed to prevail nicely.

Tune in again later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Getting The Gate

Perhaps there is no group of people that are more underappreciated in the world of horse racing than the starting gate crew. There is quite a bit of inherent danger involved in being part of the crew. Frequent They Are Off contributor, Martha Claussen, has written a piece about the gate crew in Houston and here is the link to this excellent piece:

Thanks to Martha for putting the spotlight on this group and don't forget you can tune in later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Grade 3 $400,000 Gotham Stakes

Hansen, the 2011 Champion Two-Year-Old and winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, stumbled in his 2012 debut in the slop at Gulfstream Park. Actually, that is both literal and figurative. He stumbled at the start of the Grade 3 Holy Bull and was never able to get the lead, eventually running 2nd behind Algorithms. As a result, Algorithms was thrust right into the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture. Unfortunately, Algorithms is now off the Derby Trail after suffering an injury prior to the Fountain Of Youth. So, now the only blot on Hansen's record is no longer a threat. Is there another blot to come? Here is the analysis:

Clearly, #12 Hansen is going to be a prohibitive favorite in the Gotham on Saturday. Trainer Michael Maker is taking off the blinkers for the first time in five starts and Ramon Dominguez, fresh off being named the George Woolf Award winner, is aboard again. Dominguez was up for Hansen's moment of glory in the Juvenile. The lingering question about the Gotham is who can go with Hansen and make him work for the lead, especially considering he drew so far outside? One thought might be #9 King And Crusader, who has been on or right near the lead in the last three starts, all of them wins (although he was DQ'd from purse money in one of them). He posted a strong bullet workout on February 26 over the inner track at Aqueduct, five furlongs in 1:01 1/5. #1 My Adonis and #4 Pretension also might be forwardly-placed, based on their past performances. If there is a pace battle, who might come from just off the pace and who will be coming from the clouds? I think that #2 Stealcase, #5 Maan, #8 Raconteur and #13 Tiger Walk will be sitting closer to the pace than the deep closers and as far as those deep closers, they appear to be #3 Finnegans Wake, #6 Dan And Sheila, #7 Suns Out Guns Out, and #11 Done Talking. Are any of these good enough to run down the champion in here? Since I am not exactly thrilled with the price Hansen will be in the Gotham, I think you have to try and beat him with a decent-enough price and in this case, that is just what I will try to do.

THE PICK: #8-Raconteur (15-1)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Chris Landeros

They Are Off contributor, Martha Claussen, returns today with a look at jockey Chris Landeros. Landeros has ridden before at my home track at Turf Paradise and impressed the locals with his riding abilities and he is now en route to ride in the big leagues at Gulfstream Park. Enjoy!

We wish Chris Landeros the very best of luck in his riding future. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

The Super Six Derby Pix will look a little different this week, since former #1 Algorithms was scratched out of Sunday's Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream Park with a popped splint and he is now officially off the Derby Trail. That left the race to pretty much two horses, Union Rags and Discreet Dancer. Clearly, one of those will be listed in the Pix this week. Also this past weekend, El Padrino was given all he needed from Mark Valeski in a stirring stretch duel. Here are this Pix for this week:

#1 Union Rags- There really isn't anyone else to put in the top spot right now. He absolutely dominated the Fountain Of Youth at Gulfstream and since his only loss was by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after swerving through the stretch all the way. He is far and away #1 in the Derby rankings at this early date.

#2 El Padrino- He is the top Todd Pletcher trainee on the list so far and since Pletcher is likely to have a multitude of horses in the gate on Derby Day, the winner of the Risen Star is rightly ranked this high. I am curious if he will end up remaining at Fair Grounds to run in the Louisiana Derby or return to Gulfstream to run in the Florida Derby for his next prep. A story on is reporting that the co-owners are trying to answer this same question.

#3 Alpha- Has been the dominant horse in New York over the inner track at The Big A so far, but how far will that take him? His lone effort outside the state of New York was a disaster, an 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last autumn. The plan that I have heard for him was to run in just the Wood Memorial over the main dirt at Aqueduct and then head right to Kentucky. I don't know if this will leave him short in the Run For The Roses, but those old Derby cliches have been falling fast in recent years.

#4 Hansen- He is still the Champion Two-Year-Old from 2011 and the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile over the Churchill Downs track last fall. However, his return race at Gulfstream in the Holy Bull was a sound defeat to the horse that was formerly #1 (Algorithms). He has now left Florida to run this coming weekend in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct. I still tend to think his front-running style could get compromised in the Derby itself, but we all thought that would happen to War Emblem too, didn't we?

#5 Creative Cause- He finished third in his last two tries, behind Hansen and Union Rags in the BC Juvenile, and then behind Drill and American Act in the San Vicente. His is the first name from Southern California to be on the list. He will be racing on March 10 in the Grade 2 San Felipe and then the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby after that. Since the California contingent just is not as strong as I originally thought it was going to be, I am interested to see how forward he moves in these prep races.

#6 Gemologist- Two years ago, WinStar and Todd Pletcher teamed up to win the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Could this colt be a return engagement for those connections in the Winner's Circle at Churchill Downs? He is undefeated in three starts so far and two of those wins were over the track in Louisville. However, he has not raced since November, so his first start of 2012 is expected to be on St. Patrick's Day in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn.

Tune in again later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup

Turf Paradise will host one of its marquee events of the season on Saturday with the $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup. A field of ten will go six furlongs in what promises to be a blazing fast race, featuring three stakes winners from earlier this season at Turf Paradise. Here is the analysis:

I think there is quite a speed duel promising to set up in the Gold Cup with Swift Stakes winner, #9 Derive, and the Mike Chambers trainee, #3 Danzip. Danzip is one of two Chambers horses in the field of ten, along with the winner of the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile, #1 Saratoga Boot. Saratoga Boot was the runner-up to Derive in the Swift Stakes, in what was essentially this gelding's first sprint try in some time. The horse that ran third in the Swift, #7 Absolutely Cool, could be looking at getting a garden trip in here, sitting off the pace battle that might develop. There is a most interesting horse in this field coming in from New Mexico, #10 Ducky Drake. The 10-year-old gelding's last win came in September in an optional claimer at Remington Park in Oklahoma. The winner of the Hank Mills Sr., #2 Hezamazing, didn't fare so well in the Fitzsimmons, but he did win his last sprint try over the dirt back in November. So, what the Phoenix Gold Cup boils down to is whether or not the speed merchants can survive battling each other to hold off the closers and who will be the first on the scene if the speed should collapse in the stretch.

THE PICK: #2 Hezamazing

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


One of the greatest finishes in Kentucky Derby history (pictured) actually was the finish for the career of one of the participants. In 1996, it appeared that trainer Bob Baffert was on his way to his first Kentucky Derby win with Cavonnier. Cavonnier had been the hot horse all week long leading up to the Derby off his victory in the Santa Anita Derby about a month earlier. As the field for the Derby moved through the stretch, Cavonnier had control of the race and led the field of nineteen into the final stages and was apparently on a procession to the Roses.

Cavonnier had put the favorite, Unbridled's Song (who had an unfortunate post draw of nineteen in the field of nineteen and was also dealing with a quarter crack), away in midstretch and Chris McCarron had his third Derby win in his grasp. However, rallying from way off the pace was the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Grindstone. Grindstone had the riding services of Jerry Bailey that day. For my money, Jerry Bailey was the best big race rider of all-time. He had won the Derby three years previous with Sea Hero for Paul Mellon and trainer Mack Miller. Now, he was in the silks of Overbrook Farm, as was Gary Stevens, riding Grindstone's entrymate, Editor's Note. Grindstone had negotiated his way through the big field and was in position to steal it in the final strides. Grindstone gained on Cavonnier with every stride and right at the wire, the two horses were so close together it would take a photo finish to settle it.

Hard as it may be to believe in that cacophony of noise that Churchill Downs can become during a thrilling finish, Bailey and McCarron asked each other if the other one won. Neither knew, of course, but when the numbers were finally posted on the tote board, Grindstone's #4 was posted first and Cavonnier's #3 was second. The incredible effort had taken everything out of the winner, unfortunately. Grindstone was retired within a week of winning the Derby with chips in his knee. Cavonnier did continue on the Kentucky Derby trail, finishing fourth in the Preakness (behind Louis Quatorze, who had run 16th in Louisville) and 14th in the Belmont Stakes (behind Grindstone's Derby entrymate, Editor's Note). Bob Baffert, of course, would go on to win the Derby in 1997 with Silver Charm, 1998 with Real Quiet, and 2002 with War Emblem.

It is interesting to note that Grindstone continues to be a major player in the Thoroughbred industry. He is the Sire of Birdstone, who won the 2004 Belmont Stakes and spoiled the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones. Birdstone is, of course, the Sire of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, and 2009 Belmont Stakes winner, Summer Bird. The Grindstone lineage that was so important to protect following that Derby win has come through time and time again to be a factor in the classic races of recent vintage.

Here is the link to watch the 1996 Kentucky Derby win of Grindstone: Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Photo courtesy of

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Grade 1 $500,000 Donn Handicap

The Donn Handicap will feature two of the three Triple Crown race winners from last year. Preakness winner, Shackleford, and Belmont winner, Ruler On Ice, will both be a part of the field of eleven. Also part of the day it appears will be wet weather and wet track conditions. The rain has been pelting South Florida for a while and the forecast calls for it to continue into tomorrow. Hopefully, that will not be a damper on the proceedings at Gulfstream Park. Here is the analysis:

Of course, the rain and what is expected to be a sloppy track might significantly alter how this race will be played out. The horses I expect to go to the front in here include, of course, the Preakness winner, #9 Shackleford. Shackleford went right to the front of the field with Flashpoint at Pimlico and still had enough to hold off the late charge of the Derby winner, Animal Kingdom. However, it is worth noting that Shackleford has not won since that day in Baltimore. I would also expect #2 Mission Impazible to be up top as well. It has been nearly a year since he has been in the Winner's Circle, taking the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 11. The Rick Dutrow-trained, #4 Redeemed, also might contend for the front end in the slop on Saturday. As opposed to the other two I think will be among the pacesetters, Redeemed has not been out of the first two finishers in any race since October 2010. Finally, I think #8 Trickmeister will be flying early, since his past performances in nothing but a list of ones. That also includes the finished products of his five starts, all wins.

Clearly, the wet racetrack will allow some others to become factors in the Donn. #3 Ruler On Ice won the Belmont Stakes over an incredibly wet racetrack last June. Like Shackleford, he has not been a winner since his Triple Crown score. He did run third in the Breeders' Cup Classic in the interim. The Shug McGaughey trainee in this field, #10 Hymn Book, has an impeccable record over wet racetracks with three wins and a third in four starts over off surfaces. #1 Where's Sterling, #5 Soaring Empire, and #7 Flat Out also are 1 for 1 over wet tracks. To me, it appears this race is going to come down what the pace setup will be and who handles the sloppy surface the best.

THE PICK: #3 Ruler On Ice (6-1)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

Well, this last weekend seemed to toss the Super Six Derby Pix into a bit of a frenzy because the horse that topped the initial list, Liaison, ran poorly in the Robert E. Lewis. He was already well-beaten by the time he unseated his rider. So, I don't consider that as a factor in his defeat. Alpha also strengthened his case with a win in the Withers and Battle Hardened took the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. With all that happened this past weekend, there are some changes to the Pix this week:

#1 Algorithms- He defeated the two-year-old champ, Hansen, in the Holy Bull and did it somewhat impressively as a matter of fact. He is trained by Todd Pletcher, who will have a wealth of contenders for the Derby it appears. His Sire is Bernardini, who won the Preakness in 2006. There appears to be a lot to like in this corner.

#2 Union Rags- Yet to return to the races after the disappointing loss in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Trainer Michael Matz was a Derby winner with Barbaro in 2006, so he is well-equipped to get a horse to get the Roses. Regular rider Javier Castellano might be the best in the business right now.

#3 Alpha- He won the Withers over the inner track at Aqueduct this past weekend and seems to just keep doing everything he is supposed to be doing to this point. His Sire is also Bernardini (do you seem to be sensing a theme here?). This might be Godolphin's best chance to get that elusive Derby they crave in quite some time.

#4 El Padrino- This is another Pletcher possibility who won at Gulfstream the same day that Algorithms established his credentials. His win in an Allowance race was certainly impressive. His next start is expected to be the in the Grade 2 Risen Star, which means he might be taking either the Louisiana route or eventually the Arkansas route to Louisville.

#5 Hansen- The defending two-year-old champion loses a couple of spots on the list, but since he did suffer his first loss to the top horse on the list, he should continue to be included. Those in the know seem to doubt his ability to go the classic distance of the Derby. He might be one to watch in say, the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in November.

#6 Creative Cause- You cannot underrate his effort in running third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and he avoided the carnage that the Robert Lewis turned into in the wake of 43-1 upsetter, I'll Have Another. His return effort is expected to be the Grade 2 San Vicente on February 19.

Tune in again this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Grade 2 $200,000 Strub Stakes

Saturday is a potentially big day on the Road To The Derby with three big prep races, including the Grade 2 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita with #1 on the Super Six Derby Pix, Liaison. However, I have elected to focus on another race on the Southern California program, the Grade 2 Strub Stakes. Here is the analysis:

I think the field of eight in the Strub is very interesting with some early obvious speed present in 6-5 morning-line favorite, #7 Tapizar, and #4 Ultimate Eagle. Clearly, Tapizar is the more appealing of this speed, but if Ultimate Eagle can keep up with the Asmussen horse, then it might turn into a crapshoot in the late stages. #2 Prayer For Relief could be sitting right off the pace and the winner of three Derbies last year already finished behind two of his competitors in here in the Grade 2 San Fernando. However, just two weeks after that try, Prayer For Relief posted a bullet workout, five furlongs in 58 3/5 seconds. #6 Indian Winter is adding blinkers for this go and he has hit the board in only one of three lifetime graded efforts. He also has been working well lately, but this would be a big step up for him to get the lion's share. Bob Baffert has a horse in the fight, of course, with #1 Jaycito. He has been on the shelf since August, but has a recent bullet workout himself. The Sire is former Belmont winner, Victory Gallop. He should be coming from way downtown here if he is fit, which I am sure Baffert has him. #3 Beer Meister scored a win I was close to last year in the Turf Paradise Derby at odds of 40-1. After that victory, he tried to step up with graded company twice and finished 5th in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby and 7th in the Grade 2 Peter Pan. After the Peter Pan, he took some time off and came back with another strong win in Phoenix in the Luke Kruytbosch on New Year's Eve. I expect him to be coming late also and he might even sneak up for a piece. As with Jaycito, #5 Clubhouse Ride is coming back from off the shelf here. However, in this case, we are talking about a layoff of more than a year. He has not been to the Winner's Circle since a restricted stakes win at Fairplex Park in September 2010. I don't expect there to be a repeat trip on Saturday. Finally, there is #8 Balladry, the Darley horse who will be among those coming after the leaders late. He didn't catch up to Tapizar in the San Fernando, but if the pace is more contested on Saturday, he just might get there.

THE PICK: #2 Prayer For Relief (7-2)

Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Super Six Derby Pix

It is the beginning of February and that means that the Kentucky Derby picture starts to get closer to clarifying somewhat. To that end, They Are Off will unveil the first edition of the Super Six Derby Pix, which details the top six candidates to this point for the Run For The Roses. Here is the initial set of picks (or pix):

#1 Liaison- I will say that the best race I have seen to this point of any of the races involving either two-year-olds at the end of last year or the three-year-olds so far this year is the CashCall Futurity. The winner of that race was Liaison, who also won the Real Quiet before that to make it a total win streak of three for this colt. He is expected to return to the races this weekend in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis.

#2 Union Rags- In all reality, this horse should have won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He ran all over the racetrack through the stretch at Churchill Downs and still lost by a mere nose to Hansen. It is completely understandable that he would have run a tad erratically on the big stage, considering he was still somewhat inexperienced, so I think this is still a major player on the Derby scene. He is taking the traditional Florida route to the Derby: the Fountain Of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

#3 Hansen- Suffered his first loss this last Sunday in the Grade 3 Holy Bull over a sloppy track after an awkward start. The bad start essentially prevented him from getting right to the lead, as is his custom. I still think he deserved to win the two-year-old champion honors, but it was a less than stellar debut to his three-year-old season. Of course, he will get tested right back with races against #2 on the list in those two Florida preps.

#4 Rousing Sermon- Was the runner-up in that CashCall Futurity and if he had another 16th of a mile, I think he might have been the winner. He is the most-experienced of the horses so far on this list with six starts. He won the Cal Cup Juvenile, but has already finished behind Liaison on two separate occasions. He again faces Liaison in the Grade 2 Robert E. Lewis this weekend.

#5 Algorithms- This is the horse that snapped the champion's unbeaten streak. He won the Grade 3 Holy Bull this weekend, but as I said in the Hansen discussion, I think he had some excuses. Of course, that does not take away from the effort of Algorithms, who has progressed nicely from a maiden-breaking win to an Allowance/Optional Claimer to a graded stakes win. In the final analysis, he might end up being one of the strongest candidates out of what promises to be a very strong Todd Pletcher contingent.

#6 Creative Cause- Has already won two graded stakes in his brief career, the Grade 2 Best Pal and the Grade 1 Norfolk. He finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Hansen and Union Rags, less than two lengths away from a win. He is part of a strong Southern California selection of horses. The way the season is shaping up so far, I am tending to think that the Derby winner might come from the West Coast.

Tune in again later this week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The $150,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint

Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita are joining forces on Saturday to conduct a "Luck" Pick Six that includes several of the Sunshine Millions races from the Florida plant. The race I am analyzing here is not one of the Pick Six races, but I find it an interesting bunch nonetheless. Here is the analysis:

#1 Royal Currier- The last two wins for this gelding have come with exceptional Beyer numbers. He posted a 100 in the Valley Forge at Parx on December 20 and he posted a 109 in the Gallant Bob at Parx on September 24. I guess we will have to see if he just really, really likes Parx. Ramon Dominguez is aboard.

#2 Soaring Stocks- This commodity might be up after an Allowance win at this distance in an Allowance race over the Gulfstream strip on January 12. Six days before that, he threw a nice bullet workout on the ledger at Palm Meadows. John Velazquez rode that last win and will get the call again for trainer Todd Pletcher.

#3 Madman Diaries- Going turf-to-dirt here after a 2nd place finish at Tampa Bay on December 21. He has run with some tough stuff in the past, going in the 2011 Hutcheson and the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The record is very spotty as far as being consistent with regular racing appearances.

#4 Ribo Bobo- 20-1 on the morning line here. Won an elongated sprint (7 furlongs) with Optional Claimers on January 7, also at 20-1. I would be hard-pressed to expect him to go off at anything less. The Sire is 1996 Preakness winner, Louis Quatorze.

#5 It's Never To Late- Might be the price pick to like in here at 12-1. Won a couple at Delaware Park in the fall before some time off and has not returned to winning form in two Florida efforts after the layoff. Might be due to fire a big effort and I will be honest with you, I am going to like the price.

#6 Zero Rate Policy- Just missed by a nose to Apriority in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream last time out on New Year's Eve. Had won the prior two, but also finished behind #5 in one of those aforementioned Delaware races. Bullet workout on January 20. Paco Lopez has the riding assignment.

#7 Apriority- Did win that Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream, but also was well outrun in three successive efforts with Grade 1 company. He might be ideally spotted here, but will likely be the favorite in here. Will use in the mix, but will be looking elsewhere as far as finding a winner. He did post a bullet workout on January 21.

#8 Cajun Breeze- Just broke the maiden last time out on New Year's Eve. This colt has yet to miss the money in three lifetime starts. There are some impressive names in the lineage, but I would like to see him continue to move forward before I consider as a factor in this spot.


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The Breeders' Cup will be returning to the NBC family of networks starting this November after its recent run on ESPN. NBC had been the original network of the Breeders' Cup, starting with the event's inception in 1984 through 2005. While the return of the main event to its original home is tremendous, the real benefit to the racing industry is the fact that NBC or NBC Sports Network will now have approximately 56 hours of horse racing coverage in 2012.

That is a marked increase over what we have seen in the past from ESPN during their time as the "home of horse racing" the last five years. As a matter of fact, racing on mainstream television has become almost an anachronism, something that those old enough to remember it in its heyday (the 1970s) look back upon with wistful fascination. Of course, I completely understand the need of ESPN to place racing on the back burner, especially in the fall, when the network is so college football-centric. This also isn't to say that ESPN did a poor job in their handling of the Breeders' Cup telecasts. I actually thought for the most part, their work was just fine. Of course, the one major negative here is that They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, will not be part of the Cup going forward.

However, I am really excited for the prospect of NBC getting all of the major horse racing properties again. In reality, it started in 2011 when they reclaimed the Belmont Stakes and made all three Triple Crown races available on the same network, which makes complete sense in the entertainment industry because if you make something available to the mass audience in one place (and do a good job with it), they are more likely to look for that product again in the same place later on.

There is one major improvement in the overall Breeders' Cup program now and that is that the Classic itself will be run in prime time in the east with the race scheduled to run between 8pm and 9pm on November 3 for this year's Cup to be held at Santa Anita. The Classic under the lights the last two years at Churchill Downs was great theater with the Blame-Zenyatta drama in 2011 and Drosselmeyer's comeback victory over Game On Dude in 2012. Now, that Classic drama will unfold before a prime time audience, which can only be a good thing.

The one sea change that also came into being in 2011 was the use of Larry Collmus as the race caller by NBC for the Triple Crown series. Now, Larry will also get to call the Breeders' Cup races as well (the original article on the DRF website said the on-air talent had not been selected yet, but common sense says Larry will be getting the position) and I think this is a great thing also. Larry did a magnificent job calling the 2011 Triple Crown and is now positioned to emerge as the "Voice of Racing" for this generation, in much the same way Chic Anderson, Dave Johnson, and Tom Durkin all held that title so admirably.

All in all, there are so many positives with the switch on the Breeders' Cup back to NBC, not only for the event itself but the industry as a whole, that all we can do is tip our hats to the decision-makers behind this move and say well done.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Grade 3 $175,000 LeComte Stakes

The three-year-old season starts in earnest with the 68th running of the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday. There is a field of thirteen entrants with eleven betting interests. Here is the analysis:

#1 Adena' Chance- Has already finished behind several of these in recent races in New Orleans. His last effort at this distance of 1 mile and 70 yards yielded a poor result, finishing 12th of 12. Marlon St. Julien has the ride.

#1a Hero Of Order- Probably be part of the pace scenario in here, but I find it hard to believe that he will last very long up top. While he won a maiden-breaker on January 7th impressively, this would be quite a leap of faith to expect a repeat performance.

#2 Dan And Sheila- Won his only career start at one mile at Gulfstream Park. Certainly worth a look with John Velazquez in to ride for trainer Todd Pletcher. The last two workouts in January are strong and speedy.

#2b Z Dager- Another that picked up a maiden-winner recently. However, this one broke the maiden at this distance over a sloppy surface on December 15. Shane Sellers retakes the riding services.

#3 Ted's Folly- This gelding has won six consecutive starts, all at Remington Park in Oklahoma. The last of those wins came at one mile, while all the other five scores were at sprint distance. His success appears to depend on how much of a pace this closer will have to run at.

#4 Mr. Bowling- Has not run at all since October. He finished third in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs on that occasion. He had won the previous two at Delaware Park, including a ungraded stakes effort.

#5 Exfactor- Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount for trainer Bernie Flint on this colt that has won three consecutive starts. Included in those wins are the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. This will be his first try over six furlongs.

#6 Seven Lively Sins- Never got into his last start in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on November 19. If it is a consolation, it was the worst of his four lifetime starts, so it might be totally excusable. Rosie Napravnik is aboard for this one.

#7 Alexander Thegreat- The most-experienced runner in this field with ten lifetime tries. He didn't get the first win until last out on the day after Christmas over a sloppy surface. He broke the maiden at 11-1 and I find it highly doubtful he will be any better than 50-1 here.

#8 Hammers Terror- A Michael Stidham trainee that has never been worse than second in three lifetime tries. He seems very versatile, having won over Polytrack at seven furlongs and a dirt track score at this distance of 1 mile and 70 yards.

#9 Chalybeate Springs- Came back from a bit of a layoff to get a victory on January 14 at Oaklawn Park. He ran fifth in his other two graded efforts, one on the turf and one on the dirt. Even as a D. Wayne Lukas trainee, I find it hard to believe that this is a realistic contender.

#10 Capetown Devil- Undefeated after three starts, including a one-turn mile at Churchill and at this distance at Fair Grounds. Corey Lanerie is in the saddle here for trainer David Carroll. This is a step up in company, but it is possible he is up to it.

#11 Shared Property- Did not fare well in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last time out in October. However, he did win his last Grade 3 try in the Arlington Washington Futurity in September.


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Grade 3 $100,000 Hal's Hope

The featured event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is a one-turn mile named after Florida's famous Hal's Hope, who won the Florida Derby in 2000. The race showcases a field of nine led by 2-1 favorite Jackson Bend. Here is the analysis:

#1 Jackson Bend- 3rd in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, his last win came in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga in September. However, he has yet to win in four tries at Gulfstream Park, running second in three of those. Trainer Nick Zito will have the riding services of John Velazquez for this 2012 debut try.

#2 Sky Venture- Ran in two Grade 3s at Calder in the fall of 2011. He ran fourth in both of those efforts. He is another that is winless in multiple races at Gulfstream, having gone 0 for 6. However, unlike Jackson Bend, his best result is a solitary third, which came in his last race in the Harlan's Holiday on December 17.

#3 Sangaree- Was overpowered in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 26, running last of six entrants. However, he did perform better in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler three weeks prior, finishing second after a touch of a wide trip.

#4 Successful Mission- While his recent form is strong with three wins in his last four races, it isn't all that recent. He has been away from the races since May. His last race was taken off the turf at Monmouth and resulted in a win with a Beyer of 108 in the Elkwood. The bulk of his other past performances have come on the turf.

#5 Decisive Moment- Scored a win in the ungraded Delta Mile last time out on November 19. It would appear he has a fondness for Delta Downs, since he also won the Jean Lafitte in January 2011. His recent workouts have been speedy. I would expect him to be part of the pace setup in this race and could very well go all the way up top.

#6 Our Dark Knight- Has not been a winner in almost a year. He spent 2011 facing the likes of Tackleberry, Tizway, Eldaafer, and Apart. This is second of the Nick Zito entries in this race. The recent workout tab at Palm Meadows has been just fine. Jersey Joe Bravo has the riding assignment.

#7 Soaring Empire- Sire is 2003 Belmont Stakes winner, Empire Maker. Has been off since winning the Majestic Light at the end of July. However, the workouts for this horse have been a string of successive bullets, including one on January 6, covering a half-mile in 47 seconds flat. Julien Leparoux will be in the irons here.

#8 Cool Blue Red Hot- Won an Optional Claiming race at Belmont Park in October and then took some time off. Couldn't contend with the likes of Caleb's Posse and Uncle Mo in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in August. While he has hit the board in seven of nine lifetime tries, I think he might be in over his head here.

#9 Will's Wildcat- Won the Jimmy V in the mud at Churchill Downs in November and then set the pace in the Grade 1 Clark under the Twin Spires before fading to eighth. His previous win before the Jimmy V was a one-turn mile at Churchill in June, so he does have experience with this kind of race setup.


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Two Cents

The Eclipse Awards will be announced next week. The ceremony will be hosted by They Are Off favorite, Jeannine Edwards, which automatically makes it Must See TV. I, of course, do not have a vote for any of the Eclipse Awards that will be handed out, but I thought it would be fun to offer my thoughts on a few of the categories and who my choice to win would be.

2-Year-Old Male- My pick here would be Hansen of the three finalists for one simple reason. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and defeated the other two to do it. Union Rags had every chance in the world to pass him in the stretch and could not do it and Creative Cause just was not as good as the other two that day. Do I think Hansen is going to go on and win the Kentucky Derby?! But that is not the question at hand, the question is who is the best two-year-old male and my pick is Hansen.

3-Year-Old Male- I find this to be quite an interesting category with Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, Preakness winner Shackleford, and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb's Posse on the list. Honestly, my choice is Shackleford. He ran a fantastic Derby, setting the pace and gutting out a fourth-place finish when he should have been nowhere at the end. He came back two weeks later and gutted out a win in Baltimore, and while he didn't win the rest of the year, he ran credible seconds in the Grade 1 Haskell, Grade 2 Indiana Derby, and Grade 1 Dirt Mile.

Older Male- Acclamation got on a roll starting in May and didn't stop until injury put him on the sidelines. He won two Grade 2s and three Grade 1s on the turf and polytrack in Southern California. The polytrack race was the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar and it provided the shortest margin of victory in the streak, a win by a head. The other two finalists, Game On Dude and Tizway, were both excellent in 2011, Acclamation was simply that much better.

Male Turf Horse- All that being said on the side of Acclamation, I think Cape Blanco deserves to win this award with his three Grade 1 wins in 2011. He won the Man O'War at Belmont over Gio Ponti, defeated Gio Ponti again in the Arlington Million, and then came back to Belmont in October and won the Turf Classic Invitational. I really couldn't argue if any of the three finalists won this award (you already have my case for Acclamation and I collected a hefty return on St. Nicholas Abbey, who I thought was the only horse in the BC Turf), I believe Cape Blanco is the worthiest winner.

Horse Of The Year- The last couple of years this is the award that has produced the most consternation with the racing media and public. Two years ago, it was Rachel Alexandra who won. Last year, Zenyatta finally got her just due. This year, I think you have to go with the ladies again, because I think the Horse Of The Year for 2011 is Havre De Grace. She went to the post seven times in 2011, winning five times. One of those losses was in the race that most observers seem to consider the Race Of The Year, the Delaware Handicap, where she lost to rival Blind Luck by a nose. Otherwise, she was perfect until she got to the Breeders' Cup Classic. She beat the boys during the summer at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward and then followed that up with her most dominating win of the year in the Beldame at Belmont over a muddy track. Her race in the Classic was nothing to shame her, she finished fourth in what amounted to a blanket finish, running behind the winners of the last two Belmont Stakes and the gritty Game On Dude, who might have been the choice for this award had Drosselmeyer not come from nowhere to win that night. Havre De Grace was the best horse from the start of 2011, when she was at Oaklawn, to the finish, when she was just as gallant in defeat as she could be.

Of course, there are more awards to be handed out next week, but some of them are obvious, like My Miss Aurelia winning 2-Year-Old Female and Stacelita winning Female Turf. I am sure that some will agree with my choice for the categories I used and some will disagree. You know what, GREAT!, that's the way it's supposed to be. Those friendly arguments are the reason this is so much fun in the first place.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Grade 2 $150,000 San Pasqual

The featured event at Santa Anita on Saturday is the Grade 2 $150,000 San Pasqual. In the field of eight is a horse that is very familiar to Arizona racing fans, Uh Oh Bango, who came kind of close to being the first Arizona-bred to ever run in the Kentucky Derby in 2010. He didn't make the field at Churchill Downs, but nevertheless, he has had a fine career. Here is the analysis of the Grade 2 San Pasqual:

#1 Skipshot- Offspring of 1997 BC Classic winner, Skip Away. He has not won since the 2010 Swaps Stakes over the Cushion track at Hollywood Park. In fact, since that win, he has only one top three finish, a third three back at Golden Gate in November. Joe Talamo is aboard.

#2 Thirtyfirststreet- Adding blinkers for this go. Nearly won the Zia Park Derby in December after setting the pace. He was worn down by First Strike, but still held a strong second. Promises to be a part of the pace setup here and could very well be on a lone lead.

#3 Java Man- Has been off since November. This gelding posted a bullet workout on January 2 at Santa Anita, covering six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. While he is 1 for 1 over the main track at Santa Anita, he has never faced graded stakes company before. Should be considered, but potentially for the minor placings.

#4 Tweebster- Another putting on the blinkers for this effort. Only ran five times in 2011 and hit the board in four of those, but was never a winner. Did end 2010 on a three-race win streak, but that could be considered ancient history by this time. The Sire is Tapit, who of course, has been prodigious of late.

#5 Utopian- Scored at 1 1/4 miles on the turf at Hollywood last time out on November 25. This will be his first lifetime start on conventional dirt. Chantal Sutherland is the regular rider for this horse and will get the riding assignment once again on Saturday.

#6 Tres Borrachos- Could be up front, but then again could come running from the clouds as well. Rolled up late to be 3rd at 30-1 in the BC Dirt Mile behind Caleb's Posse and Shackleford. Clearly has the most glittering resume' of any of the horses in this bunch, but obviously, this will compromise his price.

#7 Uh Oh Bango- 4th in the Grade 3 All-American at Golden Gate on November 25. He has not been to the Winner's Circle since the Grade 3 Berkeley at Golden Gate in May 2010. Has been in-the-money in all three prior tries at Santa Anita, but has never won there. Mike Smith gets the call for trainer Kory Owens.

#8 Massone- Has 1967 Preakness and Belmont winner, Damascus, on the Dam side. Ran 2nd twice in three 2011 starts, but finished fourth behind two of his competitors here in the Grade 3 Native Diver last time out at Hollywood.


Remember, They Are Off accepts no responsibility for any wagers placed in conjunction with these selections. They are merely suggestions. Tune in again next week for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Maggie Mae Designs

They Are Off contributor, Martha Claussen, often sends links to her stories for SureBet Racing News this way so everyone can share in what are her excellent reports on the world of racing. This month, Martha has sent in a tremendous piece about Sally Steinmann, who owns Maggie Mae Designs. Martha does point out in the article that the name of the company has nothing to do with the Rod Stewart song of the same name (which is a good thing, since I detest that particular piece of music). Sally works closely with Old Friends Equine of Kentucky and Martha's article details that relationship, as well as how Steinmann got interested in the horses and her connection to racing. Here is the link to the article:

I hope you enjoy reading about Sally and her efforts with Maggie Mae Designs. Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!